Dad guilt is a common struggle that is rarely talked about. Dads feel guilty today because it's hard to decide on priorities. Dads today are involved in their kids lives day and night. But they worry they don't do enough as they balance work and home. Even Stay-at-Home-Dads (SAHD) can feel they don't spend enough time with their kids because they are expending so much effort taking care of the house, chauffeuring, attending to the yard, food and shopping.
1. Learning to listen is key to good fathering.
• Ask yourself , "Did you spend time chatting with your child today?"
• When you have conversations do you listen without judgment?
• Can you hear your child's opinion even if it differs from your own without jumping in too quickly?
2. Reading to your child every day is essential to raising kids who enjoy learning.
• From picture books to chapter books, reading even 15 minutes a day goes a long way.
• Read to kids even when they know how to read. They enjoy your voice and expression.
• Discuss the characters in the book. How do they feel? What do they wish for? This builds empathy.
• Go to the library, not only kindles and other notebooks, to look on the shelves for what interests your child.
3. Making house and yard work a secondary priority when your child needs your care.
• It's hard to discern when your child's needs are immediate or can be delayed, so ask, "Can you wait five minutes?" Watch the child's face to see how much they need you. Their worries come first.
• Involve your kids in the house and yard work. It may slow you down, but then it's time together, too.
• Let your kids know there are certain times of day when you're there just for them, not for your to-do list. Then they know they are a central part of your routine.
• Show your kids your "to-do" list. They like to know what you're up to.
4. Be involved with school work.
• Even preschoolers need to know you want to know about their teacher. Try to fit in a periodic visit to the classroom. It makes a child feel so proud to show off their dad.
• Even good students like to know their dad is willing to sit by their side now and then while they do homework. Be inquisitive about what they are learning.
• Tell kids about the subjects you like. If they know you like to learn, it will become part of who they are.
• When a low grade report comes in, make it something you are interested in helping with not judging. Ask, "What can I do to help?" rather than, "Do it this way...." Encouragement, not criticism goes a long way.
Managing Guilt: Setting Realistic Goals
Guilt comes when we don't measure up to our own standards. So set your goals.
Ask yourself some important questions:
• Do you have other dads to talk to that can help you determine what are realistic goals?
• Can you share with your kids what you do during the day at work, so they feel included?
• Can you prioritize what's essential to you as a father in your relationship with your child?
The key is being good enough.There's no such thing as a perfect dad. If you're reading this, chances are pretty right on, that you're trying hard enough and are good enough!
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with a recent book that has many stories about dads playing pivotal roles in families, Unlocking Parental Intelligence; Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Familius, libraries, and wherever books are sold.